Hearing Loss

Understanding hearing loss

Hearing health is vital to a person’s overall well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)* more than 5 percent of the world’s population, approximately 466 million people, have disabling hearing loss – of which 34 million are children. The numbers also show that on average people with hearing loss wait as long as 10 years before seeking help.

Hearing loss facts

  1. Disabling hearing loss affects around 5% (466 million) people worldwide.
  2. Estimates say that by 2050 one in 10 (around 900 million) people will have disabling hearing loss.
  3. Approximately 1 in 3 people over 60 years old have hearing loss.
  4. An estimated 1.1 billion young people around the world are exposed to risky levels of noise in recreational environments.
  5. 60% of hearing loss in children comes from preventable causes.
  6. Approximately 1 in every 1000 infants have hearing loss.
  7. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic ear infections are a leading cause of hearing loss.
  8. Studies show that around 65% of people with hearing loss experience mild hearing loss, 30% moderate and 5% severe or profound hearing loss.
  9. The majority of people with hearing loss are of school-going or working age.
  10. Studies show that only 1 in 5 people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.
  11. On average, people with hearing loss wait almost 10 years before they do something about it.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss does not simply mean someone has issues with hearing soft sounds. A person dealing with hearing loss may perceive speech and other sounds as being “muffled” and they may also have difficulty hearing individual words or consonants, especially in noisy environments. Often you will notice that a person with hearing loss turns up the volume of their TV or radio to very high levels. They may also ask others to speak more slowly and clearly or to repeat themselves during conversations. Changes in behavior, such as lost interest in participating in social events or no longer taking part in conversations, may also be a sign of hearing loss.

To learn more please refer to our section on signs of hearing loss or, to get a better understanding of what hearing loss sounds like, listen to the examples from our hearing loss simulation.

Types and Causes of Hearing Loss

The type of hearing loss is usually determined by where the issue arises anatomically in the ear (inner, middle or outer ear) as well as by its severity.

There are three categories commonly used to distinguish hearing loss by origin:

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss
    Conductive hearing loss refers to hearing loss that arises because sound cannot get through the outer or middle ear. It is often temporary and can be treated with medicine or surgery. This type of hearing loss can, among other reasons, be caused by fluid, earwax or an infection in the ear.
  2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
    Sensorineural hearing loss comes from issues with the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent. Age, noise and genetics are common reasons for sensorineural hearing loss.
  3. Mixed Hearing Loss
    This type of hearing loss is a combination of conductive-, as well as sensorineural hearing loss.

Additionally, a hearing loss is defined by its severity – ranging from mild to moderate and severe to profound. Hearing loss is also defined by whether one or both ears are affected and whether it was present at birth or acquired at a later point in time.

To learn more please refer to our section on types of hearing loss as well as our section on causes of hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Treatment

Treatment options largely depend on the type and the cause of the hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can often be improved with medication or surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, will most likely be supported by means of hearing aids or, if the hearing loss is especially profound, through cochlear implants. 

If you think that you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss it is best to speak to an expert. There are several experts you can talk to who will assess your hearing based on a hearing test, and who can help you find the solution that is right for you:

The Audiologist

A highly trained health care professional who is recognized for their specialty in hearing assessments and providing solutions for hearing health care.

ENT physician

A physician who specializes in medical issues regarding the ear, nose and throat (ENT). May also be referred to as Otologist, Otolaryngologist and neuro-Otologist.

Hearing Aid Professional

A hearing aid professional is trained to fit hearing aids. They specialize in the details of a hearing aids functionality rather than that of diagnostics. To find an expert in your area please refer to our hearing specialist finder.